WHAT IS THE BUY PILE?
Every week Hannibal Tabu (journalist/blogger/novelist/poet/karaoke host/jackass) goes to a comic book store called Comics Ink in Culver City, CA (Overland and Braddock -- hey Steve, Jason, Vince and Sally) and grabs a whole lotta comics. These periodicals are quickly sorted into two piles -- the "buy" pile (a small pile most weeks, comprised of planned purchases) and the "read" pile (often huge, often including comics that are really crappy but have some value to stay abreast of). Â Thursday afternoons (Diamond monopolistic practices willing, and yes, it used to be mornings, but management asked for it to slide back some), you'll be able to get his thoughts (and they're just the opinions of one guy, so calm down) about all of that ... which goes something like this ...
THE BUY PILE FOR OCTOBER 1ST, 2008
March on Ultimatum Saga (Marvel Comics)
Marvel is a smart freaking company -- at least in regards of this. Another in their "saga" line of books, this thin and absolutely free issue essentially tells the entire history of the Ultimate Universe (henceforth called by its designation, Earth-1610). Everything. From "Ultimate Spider-Man" #1 onwards. Seriously. Well, okay, not everything -- there's no mention of Ultimate Hawk-Owl and Woody. But everything relevant to this, all the big events and things that shaped the Earth-1610 are all here. Writer Stuart Vandal deftly strings together even the most disparate events into a fast paced narrative. This is quite a good way to build excitement for their new crossover ... and for back issues as well.
Top 10: Season Two #1 (America's Best Comics/WIldstorm/DC Comics)
True, Alan Moore isn't directly involved in this issue. That means a considerably lower density of in-panel visual gags, but the heart and tenderness of the series remain, as new personnel fill in the ranks while old favorites are still up to the same old (fun) tricks. The new focal character Slipstream Phoenix is developed fairly well (even though it's still not clear what he can do) while more societal mores are explored. Fun stuff, well written, gorgeously depicted and still one of the best on the stands.
Red Mass for Mars #2 (Image Comics)
This issue takes it kind of slowly, looking into how the caped extrahuman Mars (a Superman/Majestic analogue) came to recognize and accept his power. It also introduces a complicated relationship with his apparently similarly powered son, Phobos. It's still good solid Jonathan Hickman material, but with a less complicated content density (which makes it an easier read for many who don't like to be challenged) and gorgeous artwork by Ryan Bodenheim (although why Hickman chose such a monochromatic color palette is a mystery). Entertaining material.
Vixen: Return of the Lion #1 (DC Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Take a little bit of Ororo's stylings and a smidgen of T'Challa's attitude, mix it with Halle Berry's haircut and send it on a mission for vengeance to Africa. That's the basics of what happens here, but G. Willow Wilson's script does a great deal with characterization as well as action scenes (Cafu's art on the big opening splash is fantastic, and the visual storytelling is great and evocative throughout). This issue sneaks up on you, and the more you read it, the more nuance comes through -- Mari crying on Clark's shoulder, the camera angles, simply delightful. A pleasant surprise.
House of M: Civil War #2 (Marvel Comics)
Jump from the Read Pile. Okay, so the entire Magneto-ruled world was a power-drunk creation of his chemically imbalanced daughter, a crossover called "The House of ATM" for how many dollars it sucked in. Yet it had to have a history, and this issue continues telling that story, of Magneto's rise to power. Much like Marvel did mining the "Age of Apocalypse" continuity for stories years after the crossover properly ended, this somewhat mistitled comic (there's not much "civil" about a war based on specie) and the results here are pretty good. "Tomorrow has come!" Magneto proclaims at one point, which leads to a surprising ally leading a challenging struggle and a show of power that's almost perfectly depicted in the artwork (Andrea DiVito could have pulled the camera back some on the big event near the end). A shocker in that little in the actual crossover was as good as some of the books based on it, from years later.
WHAT'S THE PROGNOSIS?
Two jumps, great repeat reads, that's a hell of a start ... despite some allegations that having a day job is making this column "soft."
THIS WEEK'S READ PILE
Honorable Mentions: Stuff worth noting, even if it's not good enough to buy
Jai Nitz's "El Diablo" #2 was close to making the jump with an issue that was almost all action. The title character struggles with the dichotomy between his desires and the mission he's accepted, while he still doesn't have all the information. Add a little more meat to the story, and this could be a winner.
"The Atheist" #2 was not bad, with the determined detective going a little bit cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs as he investigates an unusual murder. The lack of coloring is a detriment (at least use some grayscale) and the narrative meanders a bit, but the lead character is compelling and the local constable provides a good counterpoint.
"Justice League of America" #25 messed with your brain through a storytelling antagonist true to his mythical roots ... but the "why" he's doing this is never quite made clear. Also, the seeds of new heroes coming to play are planted when we find out where Professor Ivo's set up shop, so that's kind of interesting.
"Punisher War Jornal" #24 was best, like "Ms. Marvel" in past weeks, when the lead character sticks to relentless displays of violence. Little does Frank know that he's being hunted by multiple parties while he engages in a commando campaign against the Secret Invasion, but he doesn't get the luxury of ignorance for long. The scenes setting up the non-Frank stuff were simply okay, and a straight Punisher offensive against the Skrulls seems like it'd be more fun.
Two-Face brings the crazy extra hard in "Nightwing" #149, and that's both disconcerting and entertaining. But Nightwing's a little less involved with his problem than he needs to be.
There's the seed of something interesting in "Four Eyes" #1, but it takes forever to figure out what it is.
It's a big surprise to see "Supergirl" #34 almost not suck (although it does echo the "get a secret identity" shtick from some issues back) with some diminished whining from the title character, a Peter Parker-esque turn in what she does with her time and some okay (if needlessly chatty) action scenes, all wonderfully drawn by the illustrious and praiseworthy Jamal Igle.
The "Meh" Pile Not good enough to praise, not bad enough to insult, not important enough to say much more than the title
"Terror Titans" #1 (flirting with Clock King, ew), "Eternals" #5 (despite a lot happening), "Voltron: A Legend Forged" #3, "Trinity" #18 (an elseworlds? Really?), "Sub-Mariner: Depths" #2, "Manhunter" #35 (which is a major improvement from "ignore at all costs") and "Cable" #7.
No, just ... no ... These comics? Not so much ...
What happened to you, "Authority" #3? Eidolon tells the Midnighter a lot he doesn't wanna hear while Apollo is forced to essentially live in the outer reaches of the sun, barely able to visit for brief periods of time. High octane shows of power? Not so much -- more like the on-ship scenes in "The Matrix." How long is this dour post-apocalyptic approach going to be happening again?
Really? They're still publishing comics' answer to "Emily's Reasons Why Not?" "Marvel Apes" #3 had the gall to come out this week? Plus, why does the Gibbon share a name with the John Cusack character in "Gross Pointe Blank?" Let's never speak of this again. Seriously.
SO, HOW BAD WAS IT?
Two stinkers that were more tragic than awful, some real surprises and interesting tidbits in the reads ... that's pretty good, given how light a week it was.
WINNERS AND LOSERS
A solid win this week.
Got a comic you think should be reviewed in The Buy Pile? If we get a PDF of a fairly normal length comic (i.e. "less than 64 pages") by no later than 24 hours before the actual issue arrives in stores (and sorry, we can only review comics people can go to stores and buy), we guarantee the work will get reviewed. Physical comics? Geddouttahere. Too much drama to store with diminishing resources.
Furthermore, as if this reviewer here wasn't obnoxious enough with his opinions, he's part of an effort to teach writers about how to do the work at The Hundred and Four, where this week there's short fiction from your not-so-humble reviewer. New content is posted every Wednesday.